I watched a show on HBO Wednesday night called "Pretty Things", about old-time burlesque strippers. The show was written by Liz Goldwyn, who also appeared in it. They had clips from performances, old and new interviews with the dancers and some musicians who played for the burlesque shows. It was very interesting to see some of their old costumes and be shown how they worked with various outfits. Some of them talked about how they got ideas for their acts, or that they were determined to be perceived as "ladies" and not to be considered tacky. That amused me, since one of them used a snake in her act and simulated having s*x relations with it.
One of the most interesting facets of the show was learning some of the women's personal histories, which were sad, for the most part. Many of them were orphans; either by death or by abandonment, and most of them started stripping by the time they were fourteen. That was not by choice, most explained, but they were forced into it by family members, or because they had no other skills.
If you are interested in reading about these women, check out this link:
and if you have access to HBO, I highly recommend this show.